Saturday, February 13, 2016

QuiltCon 2016 Magazine

The digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine is now available, and my article "Sweepins': The Rise of Improvisational Quiltmaking in America" is included. The four-page feature article discusses the history of the improvisational style in American quiltmaking, while celebrating the appearance of Gwen Marston as Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016.

Gwen loves old quilts! Sisters, Oregon, 2012 (photo by Kristin Shields)
I met Gwen in 2012 at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Shortly after the event, a fellow member of the Northwest Quilters offered me her spot in Gwen's Liberated Medallion workshop and Folk Art Quilting Retreat with Gwen and Sue Spargo in the Fall. So, I went.

Center Star, 2013, quilted by Tomme Fent
In the workshop, I started a small, improvisational quilt called "Center Star" - inspired by the famous Center Star quilt in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum and done in Gwen's liberated style. At one point, I was having trouble with my Featherweight, so Gwen reached underneath and pulled out a silver-dollar sized piece of lint from under the bobbin. "Maybe you should get the machine serviced," she said slyly, holding up the piece of lint. We laughed.

"Wild-Eyed Susans" 2013
In Sisters, I also began work on a wool quilt, "Wild-Eyed Susans" during the Folk Art Quilting Retreat. Both projects were finished within the year, exhibited, and published. The wool quilt even received an award in my first judged show, the Pacific West Quilt Show.

Nine Patch quilt top, New York, c. 1830
Improvisational style seems like a recent trend in quiltmaking, but the roots of improvisational style run deep. The article discusses the rise of improvisational quiltmaking, from the early 19th century "make-do" patchwork to the scrap quilts made of cutaway fabrics from the garment industry.

Prior to the turn of the 19th century, American bedcovers were elegant wholecloth, applique and embroidered works. The less formal, scrap quilts came later, and coincided with the establishment of the textile and garment industries in America. The signature wedge-shaped patches came from cutaway scraps. Today, people take classes with teachers like Gwen, learning how work in an improvisational style replicating the cutaway shapes.

"Sweepins'" article featuring Kristin Shields' magnificent "Love in the Digital Age"
When I heard Gwen would be the Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016, I thought it would be fun to write about the history of improvisational quilts for the magazine, and share the story of meeting Gwen. One of the other attendees in her workshop and retreat was Kristin Shields of Bend, Oregon. Kristin's magnificent "Love in the Digital Age" quilt is featured on the first page of the article. I got great quotes from Mandy Leins and Siobhan Furgurson, too.

"Center Star" - masterfully quilted by Tomme Fent
"Center Star" is part of the article. Gwen saw pictures back when the quilt was first completed, and she was so impressed she thought about having some of her own tops machine quilted. That was really something, considering her strong preference for hand quilting.

Quiltmania Magazine, France, 2013
Generation Q Magazine loved the quilt, publishing it twice. Quiltmania also published it, and it was on the invitation and gallery guide for the biennial men's exhibition at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in 2014, which was juried by Bill Gardner, Editor-in-Chief of Quilters Newsletter.

MANifestations 2014 invitation
I wanted Gwen to see the quilt in person, but being in the magazine is even better than being in the show. QuiltCon has good attendance. It's only up for a few days, though. More people will see the quilt in the magazine, where they can read about its connection to Gwen and its place in American improvisational quiltmaking tradition. To get the digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine, click here


  1. Congratulations! Love your star quilt. The magazine will have to substitute for seeing it in real life. Thanks for the link...

  2. Love the article, your star quilt, Gwen, Happy Valentines Day!